Subject: Explicit Sexuality
Artist: United Colors of Benetton clothing company
Confronting Bodies: The Vatican
Dates of Action: November 2011
Location: Rome, Italy
Description of Artwork: This Benetton advertisement depicted a digitally altered image of Pope Benedict XVI sharing a kiss with Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, imam of Al-Azhar mosque. The large, prominently displayed ad was intended to be part of the intentionally controversial company's "UNHATE" campaign. Other images in the series included a similar ad featuring US President Barack Obama kissing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and similar ads with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas; North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak; and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The Incident: Only one day after the unveiling of the advertisement in public locations around Rome, Benetton pulled it. Regardless, the Vatican -- reacting to what was considered "a serious lack of respect for the Pope, an affront to the feelings of the faithful, and an evident demonstration of how, in the field of advertising, the most elemental rules of respect for others can be broken in order to attract attention by provocation" -- swore to initiate legal action against the company.
Results of Incident:
Source: Huffington Post article